Dreamforce 2014 is almost upon us and this year Salesforce is expecting a staggering 140,000 people to attend the event. There will also be over 1,400 expert sessions held, keynote speeches given by major figures such as Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former US Vice President Al Gore, renowned journalist Arianna Huffington, and legendary musician Neil Young. With so much going on at the event if you are lucky enough to be one of those who will be attending, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and by this point you may be desperate to figure out a way to maximize your experience. What follows are 16 savvy tips to do just that.
Enthusiasm is important for helping you get in the right mindset and make the most of your trip. Build your own enthusiasm by simultaneously building that enthusiasm in your co-workers, friends, and family. Go ahead and gush about your trip, even brag a little. This will help make you accountable when you finally get home and people ask what you got out of the trip. If you are also planning to implement changes at your company based on what you see at Dreamforce, this will help get co-workers get comfortable and even excited about the changes.
Set Your Goals
What are you hoping to get out of Dreamforce 2014? Are you looking for an innovative solution to a problem? Trying to keep a pulse on industry trends? Eager to do some networking and build your contacts? All of the above? Setting tangible goals and creating a strategy to meet them is the first step for success.
Designate Must-Attend Sessions
As we mentioned in the opening paragraph, Dreamforce 2014 is going to be huge! There’s no way you’ll be able to attend every session that looks appealing. That’s why it’s so important to go through the list and designate must-attend sessions that are so important to you that you’ll be willing and able to plan your day around them. Consider also selecting a second string set of sessions so that if you have the opportunity to attend extra sessions you’ll know which ones to hit.
Avoid the pitfall of overbooking yourself. Doing so runs the risk of causing you to burn out completely after the first day or two, or, just as bad, miss the opportunity to get in some solid networking and socializing. Having too tight a schedule can also cause everything to come unraveled if you have an unexpected delay.
Get to Sessions Early
If possible try to get to your sessions early. Planning to arrive early will give you the extra time in your schedule to stop and chat or network with someone if a good opportunity arises. Arriving early will also ensure that you get a good seat and have time to get situated and be ready to make the most of the session as soon as it starts.
Map Your Route
Remember Dreamforce isn’t just a huge event in terms of the number of people in attendance; it’s also huge in terms of the geographic area that it will encompass. Many of the venues are easily a 10 or 15 minute walk from each other. The last thing you want to do is extend that, and wear yourself out, by getting lost or going in the wrong direction. Plan ahead and map out your route.
Break Out of Your Comfort Zone
New ideas and creativity flourish in an environment where people are looking at things from a fresh perspective. Consider going to sessions you wouldn’t normally attend, either with friends and contacts, or even just by yourself. You might be surprised about how many of the ideas and resources discussed in these seemingly foreign sessions will have an implication for your business.
Utilize Official Resources
If you’re already registered for Dreamforce you should consider checking out the ‘Success Community.’ You can also check out the Chatter group for Dreamforce. Finally, a great tool is the Dreamforce 2014 Handbook from Pardot.
Bring Business Cards
One of the most important things to bring with you to Dreamforce is an ample supply of your business cards. Remember Dreamforce is a major networking event and it is your opportunity to get some face time with dozens of experts and leaders in your industry.
Network Like a Boss
For some people networking comes easy, while for others it may feel awkward or forced. If you’re a member of the latter camp consider brushing off your networking skills before you get to Dreamforce and plan out an opening ice breaker or quick introduction. Remember to smile, make eye contact, and do as much listening as you do talking. There will be countless official and unofficial social events at Dreamforce so find the ones where you will be most comfortable and work on building some solid contacts within your industry.
Engage with Social Media
Unsurprisingly Dreamforce is huge on social media. Twitter is one of the best tools to stay current on all things Dreamforce and to receive instant, real time updates while you are there. Dreamforce already has many official hashtags selected, so begin connecting with other users now on social media. You may even be able to do much of your preliminary meet up scheduling now over social media before you actually arrive.
Take Care of Yourself
Think of Dreamforce as a marathon, not as a sprint. Make sure you get plenty of rest, wear comfortable shoes, stay hydrated and eat right. Staying healthy and energized is important not just to ensure that you physically make it to the sessions and events, but also to ensure that you are mentally and emotionally plugged in and ready to learn.
Remember that even the best laid plans are bound to experience a few hiccups. Don’t stress about it, instead go with the flow and make the most of it until you can get back on track. The worst thing you can do is be so fixated on your original plan that you fail to miss great opportunities or overlook the bigger picture.
Consider Extending Your Stay
Dreamforce 2014 is being held in San Francisco, a world-class city with a bustling cultural life and a ton of historical attractions and museums. San Francisco also boasts beautiful weather, scenic landscapes, and delicious cuisine. It’s understandable to be tempted by all the city has to offer, and indeed it would be a shame to miss out while you are there. Don’t let sightseeing disrupt your Dreamforce experience, however. Instead considering arriving a couple of days early, or staying a couple of days late so that you can leisurely take in the sights and enjoy the city.
Follow Up with Contacts
Once you get home from Dreamforce it is imperative that you cement your new networking relationships by following up with the people you met. Add them to your social media contacts, shoot them an email or set up a time to call and chat via phone. If the person lives nearby try to arrange a face-to-face get together. Don’t let your new relationships fizzle out before they even get going properly.
Follow Up with Ideas and Features
Dreamforce is a whirlwind of activities and ideas. Don’t let the best ones become victims of inattention or simple memory lapses. Instead, take the time to jot down notes or enter them in your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. That way once you get home and life returns to normal you can methodically go through your notes and apply your ideas or check into exciting products.
Following these 16 tips will help you maximize your 2014 Dreamforce experience. Remember that ultimately what it comes down to is having an experience that satisfies you and the needs of your company. Thus a successful experience is subjective and in many ways with all the great entertainment, informative sessions, product expos, and industry experts that will be present at Dreamforce 2014, you almost can’t have an unsuccessful time.
By Kevin Knight